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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Falling Flat

As I watched this year’s Top 12 Guys take the stage for their first live outing, I had the sinking feeling I was watching a Greek tragedy unfold before my eyes. These 12 guys, previously lauded by the judges as some of the best they’d ever seen, started falling part from the minute the first one stepped on stage. And not even our favorites from the Hollywood Round could redeem the evening.

I’m not sure what went wrong. Obviously there were some bad song choices (John Park’s “God Bless the Child”), some bad performances (Tyler Grady’s 70s schtick), some bad arrangements (Toddrick Hall’s R&B mess-up of “Since U Been Gone”) and some just bad singers (sorry Tim Urban!) That’s all to be expected on their first live episode.

But when clear frontrunners like Andrew Garcia and Michael Lynche take some missteps, you start to wonder. Were these guys good to begin with? Hopefully, it’s just nerves and people like Andrew and Michael will come back roaring next week.

In the meantime, here’s how I grouped tonight’s performances. Unlike the female singers last night, I couldn’t find a good way to pick the Top 6 singers out of this group of guys. There just weren’t enough of them. So here’s how I ranked them tonight: either they have “potential,” left me feeling “blah” or had me reaching for “earplugs.”

Singers with Potential

Aaron Kelly- Looking back at the entire group of singers, Aaron’s voice stood out really well. His nerves showed a little bit as he sang Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most,” (ironically penned by former “Idol” singer Chris Sligh) but overall Aaron’s really good. And he tackled some of those big notes effortlessly. At points I was even comparing him to Rascall Flatts’ lead singer Gary LeVox, who has a very hard voice to emulate. The judges want Aaron to start believing in himself and if he can boost his confidence he could go a long way.

Joe Munoz- This is the first time I’ve really heard this 20-year-old Californian sing, and despite a slight shakiness to his voice (probably from nervousness), he sounded very good. His song choice of Jason Mraz’s “You & I” was a perfect compliment to his voice and showed off his ability to do vocal runs. Like Aaron, the judges want Joe to bust out some star performance or he may get lost in the shuffle.

Lee Dewyze- I have to admit, I questioned the judges’ choice on letting Lee into the semifinals. And while he didn’t completely sell me on his singing talent tonight, I do have a better opinion of him. He did an admirable job on Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” but not an exceptional job, which is what he needs to help him stand out. Plus, he seems to have adopted some facial tics and voice mannerisms from Dave Matthews (rewind his performance and watch his head bobble back and forth, followed by his Matthews-esque growl). But I’m betting this is how David Cook started, with people wondering why he was there. He needs to heed Simon’s advice and put a twist on some well-known songs and maybe he could gain some momentum on the show.

Michael Lynche- Let’s be honest. Everyone seems to like Michael. We like his story, we like his new baby, we like his personality. So even though he did a ho-hum version of Maroon 5’s “This Love,” I think he’ll be sticking around. Next time he should find a better way to arrange his song (tonight’s arrangement pretty much sucked) and he should pick a song that better suits his range (i.e. if you can’t do really high notes, don’t sing songs that have a lot of them). As Simon said, he’s a big guy with a big heart with a performance that produced little results.

Casey James- No matter what kind of clothing he wears from here on out, Casey will forever be known as the “shirtless wonder.” And putting aside the pure creepiness of married woman/professional judge Kara drooling over him at every turn, Casey turned in a really solid rendition of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.” He’s got a great country-rock voice that should get him far (see Bo Bice or Taylor Hicks), and it’s almost guaranteed that the teens will vote for him. The judges agreed and called him “honest” and “likable.”

Andrew Garcia- Oh Andrew, I had such high hopes for you tonight! After hearing your crazy-cool take on Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” back in Hollywood, I was expecting big things from you. I figured that’s why they put you in the prime position of being last, so the audience would be guaranteed to vote for you. But your take on Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down” was just strange. Yes, you have a good voice and yes, I want you to stay in the competition, but I felt like you were singing to yourself instead of the audience. Plus, your switch-up of the melody was just weird. There’s no doubt you’ll be back, so remember, there’s a whole treasure chest of awesome ‘80s and ‘90s pop or rock songs that you could put your signature twist on. Channel your inner David Cook or Blake Lewis and start cranking out those original tunes, ASAP!

The Kings of Blah

Toddrick Hall- The 24-year-old Texan showed such promise in Hollywood, but his take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” was only adequate. It came off like a bad Bobby Brown R&B version of the song, which didn’t need to be transformed so drastically in the first place. Despite that, his singing is still very good, so he just needs to go back to the drawing board if he makes it to next week.

Jermaine Sellers- The church singer from Illinois didn’t want us to think he was a diva, but he didn’t come across as too believable when asked to apologize to that band leader he griped at in Hollywood. He sang Oleta Adams’ “Get Here,” but despite some cool, breathy, jazzy notes, he still kinda came off like a nightclub act. Ellen told him he needs to feel the lyrics more and just relax, while Simon said he just blew his opportunity.

Tyler Grady- Should we give the retro-rocker from Pennsylvania a free pass because he can do a really awesome Jim Morrison impression? Well, if this were 70s Week during the Finals, then yeah, I’d be all for Tyler’s take on “American Woman.” But this is week one, and I’m already sort of bored with his “routine.” I agree with the judges, who said he focused more on style over substance. He needs to ditch the act and just show us what he can sing.

Alex Lambert- To paraphrase Gloria Gaynor, at first I was afraid, I was petrified. The beginning of Alex “Not Adam” Lambert’s take on James Morrison’s “Wonderful World” was downright strange. And then it got worse, as Alex looked like a deer stuck on a highway. But through it all, I could detect something interesting in his voice. Simon was disappointed because he really likes Alex’s voice, while Kara said he even sounded like Morrison. The judges’ suggestion- he should get his act together.

Can someone hand me my earplugs?

Tim Urban- Congratulations on becoming an alternate on “American Idol,” Tim! And sorry for the tease, but I think you’re going right back home. This Jon Peter Lewis-lookalike (you remember him from Season 3, right?), just sounded fake on One Republic’s “Apologize.” And, correct me if I’m wrong, if you can’t sing falsetto, why did you pick a song peppered with high notes? The judges weren’t happy and neither was I.

John Park- It’s possible the 21-year-old from Illinois has a decent voice, but he sure didn’t showcase it here. His choice of “God Bless the Child” felt too old, too stodgy and too slow. Kara said it was sleepy and Simon said he had zero emotion. Even Ellen was stumped for good things to say, and that’s not a good position to be in.

What did you think of the Top 12 guys? Were you as disappointed with this episode as I was? Were there any rays of hope in this otherwise dismal lineup? What songs would you have chosen? And who will get the boot on Thursday? Post below and tune in Thursday night as last year’s winner Kris Allen takes the stage and four singers go home! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on February 25, 2010 12:41 AM
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